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Theo Paphitis Retail Group resilient through the pandemic with the Group delivering strong growth 

Published: 5 January 2022 - Neil Mead

Christmas 2021 trading results (6 weeks to 24 December), comparing 2021 vs 2019 - as the only meaningful measure, given the lockdown impact to trade in 2020. 

  • Total Group sales +15.6% ahead of 2019 driven by strong performance and growth across all brands in e-commerce. Investment in our infrastructure over recent years together with customer acquisition has helped to drive sales and our customer base, which will continue to be a focus in 2022.
  • Growth of +15.6% on 2019, made up of +87.5% growth in ecommerce with stores at -6.3%. Highlights include:
    • +50.6% growth in Boux Avenue, including both ecommerce and stores, building on the recovery from last year.
    • Robert Dyas delivered a doubling of sales online for the period. 
    • Ryman’s ecommerce up +56.4%.

Financial Statements for the Year Ended March 2021

  • Boux Avenue: Boux Avenue made significant progress following its strategic review in 2019, with total sales growth of +9.1% - an amazing performance, particularly taking into the account the closure of its stores for over half of the year. Underlying EBITDA loss reduced to £3.5m despite disruption and costs relating to the pandemic, from the previously reported loss of £14.9m (an underlying improvement of £11.4m).  E-commerce growth was +129.7% up on 2020.  Performance has further improved into the current financial year, with sales and profits well ahead of last year.
  • Ryman: The brand’s prominence in city centres, business and student markets has meant that, due to the lockdowns, it was most affected during the last financial year. EBITDA was an £8.5m loss (2020 - £7.8m profit) bringing to an end a run of over 25 years of profitable performance. As lockdown restrictions eased, Ryman began its journey to profitability in 2022 once again.
  • Robert Dyas: Delivered growth on last year, with ecommerce trading up +88% on the previous year, contributing 47% of total sales for the year. This helped to mitigate the impact of the pandemic with an improvement in EBITDA of £2.4m, resulting in a loss of only £0.7m. 
 

Theo Paphitis, Chairman Ryman, Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue said: “We are pleased with the performance and progress in the financial year ended March 2021 and inevitably the pandemic has affected our brands in different ways, with Boux Avenue and Robert Dyas making excellent progress in this last year.  The  results demonstrate the hard work and dedication of our colleagues across the Group, and how the stores and online arms have worked together, building on our strategy and crucial investment prior to and during the pandemic. 

"The Group’s +15.6% overall growth during our peak trading period, versus pre-pandemic 2019, including stores and ecommerce, shows further progress and resilience through and out of lockdowns. Stores were only slightly behind the comparable period in 2019 for the Group, with Boux Avenue the star performer of the Group in this area, with a strong performance of +50.6%. The strength of our ecommerce trading masks the much more challenging store environment, in particular in city centres and prime locations, where business rates are unfairly high. It is therefore a major disappointment that this has failed to be structurally addressed by the Chancellor.

"Boux Avenue has made excellent progress in the last financial year and had a strong Christmas, with the investment in ecommerce and product development in particular enabling this performance. Having come through a difficult period, our strategic review and implementation of this has seen the business well set for the future. Our customers have responded positively to our ranges and demonstrated their loyalty to the brand through switching between channels. This was demonstrated by the underlying EBITDA improving by £11.4m in the last financial year.

 

"Robert Dyas’s excellent performance online also drove strong growth for the brand, with its ecommerce strategy and investment paying dividends for the brand.  Even with stores reopening, year to date ecommerce growth continued to accelerate for the first six months of the current financial year by a further +34.2%. The increased trend towards the home and garden sector has also created further success for Robert Dyas.    

"Further initiatives include the extending of joint stores, with sister brand Ryman, which have been positive for both businesses. We enter Robert Dyas’s 150th year of trading positively, highlighting its place in UK’s retail as a brand with heritage and strong ecommerce capabilities. 

"Ryman’s 200-store portfolio and reliance on office, education and students has inevitably taken a harder hit than the rest of the Group during these times, but we were seeing recovery as key segments of our customer base returned, until the recent government directive advising people to work from home. This has once again caused a decline in footfall in our core demographics.  

"Ryman sales through ecommerce grew significantly during the last financial year at +111%, assisted by the shift to working from home. Due to over 200 store closures in lockdown and reduced footfall, sales declined from £123.4m to £73m, and EBITDA was a loss of £8.5m. This is the first loss experienced under my ownership of over 25 years, however, we are confident that Ryman will bounce back and is on track to make an EBITDA profit again. Our services proposition has rebounded particularly well in store as well as demand in our traditional product categories.

"Retail remains a fantastic and exciting, innovative industry to be in, and one which we are incredibly proud of. It is resilient, defiant in the face of the unexpected and continues to create  careers at all levels and deserves to continue to be a sector that is fairly supported. Whilst business was supported through the pandemic, especially as stores were closed in unprecedented circumstances,  the continued reluctance of the government to implement a fair and just realignment of the business rates tax, fit for the 21st Century, continues to damage the industry.  We need a grown up government to grasp the business rates nettle and deal with it! Whilst appreciating the complexities of the task, it’s by no stretch of the imagination impossible to complete in this modern age. 

"The focus for 2022 is building on the positive, innovation, and our colleague development, in order to satisfy our customers. We, like so many in this sector, have responded well when we’ve had everything, including the kitchen sink thrown at us, and will continue to dig deep to keep physical retail alive, as a key function of communities, but we cannot do this on our own. Over to you Mr Prime Minister.” 

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